Robots in the Operating Room

Article Date: Apr 20, 2011

She’s only 29 years old and already Amanda Abney is in for a procedure more commonly performed on someone her mother’s age – a hysterectomy. But after three years of pain caused by problems with her uterus, Amanda, her family and her doctor all agreed it was time.

“My menstrual cramps are out of this world,” says Amanda. “The bleeding is heavier and the only way to get rid of it is to take out the uterus.”

But unlike hysterectomies of the past, Amanda’s doctor, Alegent Health Clinic Women’s Health Specialist Michael Reed, M.D., will get a little help from a robot, called da Vinci.

“Instead of him cutting even big holes, there will just be a hole here, a hole here and a hole there,” she says.

Smaller incisions, a shorter hospital stay and a quicker recovery have Dr. Reed convinced the robotic-assisted total laparoscopic hysterectomy is what’s best for patients like Amanda.

“I was hesitant at first because I felt comfortable with regular laparoscopic procedures,” says Dr. Reed. “But then I saw the ability the robot has, as well as what small amount of blood loss. Some patients go home the same day and recover in two weeks versus other avenues of performing the procedure.”

Once the robot and its four arms are secured inside the patient, Dr. Reed goes to work. He sits about 10 feet away at a console, carefully maneuvering a joystick and pedal. But don’t be fooled – although it may look like a video game, da Vinci is actually doing some serious work: giving Dr. Reed a magnified, 3-D image inside his patients’ bodies.

“It helps with depth perception,” he explains. “It gives me the ability to feel almost like I’m inside. I know how far I want to pinch or grab, whereas with 2-D I have to keep trying until I get the spot. This one can almost get right to it without making any extra movement.”

The robot doesn’t do the work – that’s all Dr. Reed. But with the extra help, he’s able to get patients, like Amanda, in and out of the OR – and on their way to a pain-free life – in a couple of hours.

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